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TPG reader MacKenzie tweeted me to ask about how to deal with jet lag:
@thepointsguy – “Do you have any suggestions for avoiding jet lag? I’ve been to Europe several times the past few months and it kills me every time.”
In my experience you can’t completely avoid jet lag, but as I travel around the world several times a year, I do have some tips that might help. MacKenzie specifically mentioned Europe, and if you live on the East Coast, you’re always going to be jet lagged at least a little bit the next day in Europe.
I need a good six hours of sleep per night, and it’s really difficult to get that on the shorter transatlantic flights like New York to Europe. By the time you take off, have a meal on the plane (especially on carriers like Lufthansa where meal service doesn’t end until two-and-a-half hours after takeoff) and get to sleep in an uncomfortable position, you only have a few hours until breakfast is served and it’s landing time.
Here are my personal recommendations to avoid jet lag:
1. Try and get a full night of sleep on the plane during an overnight flight, and don’t sleep when you arrive if it isn’t nighttime. If you’re returning from Europe, don’t sleep the night on the plane, because then you’ll land in the afternoon and be completely thrown off your sleep schedule. For flights to Asia, I prefer ones that land in the early morning so I can try to get a full night of sleep on the plane and feel a little more refreshed upon arrival (after a few cups of coffee, of course). Turning off electronics will also help you sleep better. I know watching all those movies can be tempting, but you’ll be better off later if you sleep.
2. If you plan on taking a sleeping pill, wait until you’re in the air. Of course, only take prescribed drugs if you’ve been given them by your doctor. Melatonin (which you can get over the counter) also helps a lot of people. Always try any sleeping medication before you fly so you’ll know how it affects you. I’ve heard crazy stories about people urinating in the aisle, sleepwalking and doing all sorts of weird stuff, so a test is best.
3. Change your watch before getting on the plane to help you acclimate. This way you can better pinpoint when it’s nighttime in your destination, so you know when to sleep and when to try and stay awake.
4. Adjust your internal clock to match your destination before leaving. Waking up an hour earlier or later than normal before you fly can help you get in sync with the time zone of your new destination. The same goes for adjusting your meal schedule slightly — every little bit helps.
5. Eat healthy and stay hydrated before departing and during the flight. It can be tempting to indulge in champagne or wine (Singapore Airlines First Class certainly makes it easy), but it’s really important to drink lots of water. Drinking alcohol on planes makes you more dehydrated than you already are just from flying in the dry air, and that exacerbates jet lag.
6. Once you arrive (especially in Europe) don’t give in and sleep all day. Try to hold out at least until 3-4 pm and then run home for a power nap (60-90 minutes), wake up and go out to dinner. Get a good night of normal sleep and you should feel much better the next day.
It’s not an exact science, but these techniques should help. Everyone has their own tips, so please share yours in the comments section below!
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